California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Marine Management News: January 2010

Would you like to print this issue?


E-mail Notification

Would you like e-mail notification of new issues of Marine Management News?

Sign up here


Contributors to this issue

Staff Writers and Other Contributors
Heather Gliniak, Ryan Bartling, Adrienne Vincent,
Aaron Del Monte, Mary Patyten

Newsletter Editor and Designer
Mary Patyten



Rare Visitors from the South
DFG researchers document unusual find

by Heather Gliniak, Marine Biologist

"Oh, wow! What is this?" exclaimed Erica Jarvis, a Department of Fish and Game (DFG) marine biologist, while extracting a small fish out of a beach seine (net). The silver-colored fish was about 3 in. long and the body was laterally compressed with iridescent blue highlights. The pelvic fins were relatively large with black tips. The most discerning feature was the first dorsal fin, which had two long, filamentous spines. The other biologists gathered around to inspect the unusual specimen; it looked like something they recognized but had never seen locally. By the end of the sampling day, another smaller specimen had been captured and the biologists brought the two fish back to the Los Alamitos field office to be identified and preserved.

The two fish captured by seine at Seal Beach, California in November 2008 were identified as juvenile Mexican lookdown, Selene brevoortii. With the capture of these juvenile fish, the Mexican lookdown's northernmost range boundary has been extended by approximately 100 km. The typical range for Mexican lookdown is from the southern tip of Baja California, Mexico to Panama, although adult specimens had been documented in south San Diego Bay during the 1997-98 El Nio event.

The capture of these fish documents the first known occurrence of juvenile Mexican lookdown in California. The specimens are now housed in the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History fish collection, and a scientific note about the discovery has been submitted for publication in the quarterly periodical California Fish and Game.

This rare fish find occurred during a two-year surf fish study conducted by the DFG. Between May 2007 and September 2009, biologists collected monthly data on length, abundance, and movement of fishes in the surf zone. Biologists are still interested in any tagged surf fish recaptures. Anglers who catch a tagged fish should record when and where they caught the fish, the tag number, and the length of the fish, and call the DFG at the phone number on the tag. If the angler releases the fish, the tag should remain attached. A t-shirt will be mailed to every angler who reports a valid tag number from a tagged fish as a reward for helping the DFG with this study. Anglers should note that all fishing regulations still apply.

For images of the Mexican lookdown captured by DFG researchers, see the printer-friendly PDF version of this newsletter. For more information, visit the Surf Fish Population Studies Web page or call the DFG at (562) 342-7174.

Back to Top


Commercial Pacific Herring Fishery Closed

by Ryan Bartling, Marine Biologist

At the September 2009 Fish and Game Commission meeting, the Commission approved regulatory action to close commercial Pacific herring fisheries in San Francisco Bay and ocean waters. The closures were made following recommendations by the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Aquaculture and Bay Management Project (ABMP) staff.

"This closure was requested by DFG following three consecutive years of near record low herring biomass estimates for San Francisco Bay," said John Mello, supervising biologist for the ABMP. Mello noted that "the spawning biomass estimate for San Francisco Bay during the 2008-2009 season was 4,844 tons, well below the historical average of 49,428 tons."

Due to this historic decline and concerns over age-class structure (fewer older fish), DFG recommended a zero quota for commercial harvest in San Francisco Bay for the 2009-2010 season. The proposal also recommended that no permits be issued for the ocean waters fishery 2010 season. The DFG believes this regulatory action will help protect the San Francisco Bay Pacific herring stock while it rebuilds.

Previously, the Commission took emergency regulatory action to close the ocean waters fishery beginning in July 2009. This fishery occurs during the non-spawning season primarily in the waters of Monterey Bay, and is the only herring fishery with no quota.

From 1998 to 2002, intermittent herring landings from ocean waters have accounted for approximately 0.2 percent of California's overall herring catch. However, between 2005 and 2008, approximately 35 percent of the overall California commercial herring catch was landed by the ocean waters fishery. Due to the increase in overall catch by this fishery, emergency action was sought by the DFG to protect the remaining herring stock.

To address concerns about the long term sustainability of the fishery and the importance of Pacific herring as a forage species, the ABMP is currently developing a fishery management plan for Pacific herring. The goals of this plan include restoring a healthy age structure that includes all ages of fish (generally to 8 years) to the population, managing commercial harvest to achieve a sustainable fishery, and providing forage to other species that utilize herring as a food source. For more information visit the ABMP Herring Fishery Web page.

San Francisco Bay Pacific Herring Spawning Biomass 1978-2009

Back to Top


Tales from the Front Lines of California's Fisheries - Part II
Central California and Channel Islands CRFS Fishery Technicians relate their on-the-job experiences

by Mary Patyten, Research Writer

Fishery technicians for the California Recreational Fisheries Survey (CRFS) spend a great deal of time in places where anglers gather: piers, docks, jetties, boats, launch ramps, and beaches. They interview fishermen, measuring and weighing their fish, and answer questions regarding fishing regulations, all to keep tabs on the status and health of nearshore fish populations. Inevitably, they are witness to not only a long parade of fish and fishermen but also some interesting situations, as recounted here in Part II of this two-part fishing tale...

Fish aren't the only things CRFS fishery technicians see on the ends of fishermen's lines. One August weekend, fishery technician Diana El-Hinn reported the following while working at Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara: "Three women came up to me, distressed about a seabird that had become wrapped in fishing line and couldn't fly. This gull had stolen a fish that had been caught and somehow managed to entangle itself in the line.

"When the gull wrapped itself in the fishing line, it fell into the water and took the fishing pole with it! The poor bird was struggling to stay afloat, so I called the Harbor Patrol and they rescued the bird. As a bonus, the angler got his pole back and everyone lived happily ever after." Quite the fairy tale ending for both the fisherman and the gull!

Methods for avoiding angler-sea bird interactions may be found in California's Seabirds: Give Them a Break, Not a Line by seabird biologist Nora Rojek.
The following Sunday, El-Hinn was sampling fishermen's catches at a Santa Barbara dock when the Harbor Patrol arrived. "They appeared to be anxiously waiting for someone. Then a fire truck showed up. Soon another Harbor Patrol boat arrived, towing a third boat to the dock. Then two more fire trucks pulled up, and the Harbor Patrol stopped all boat traffic at the ramp.

"I found out later in the day that the boat owner had pumped 24 gallons of gas into his fishing pole holder instead of his fuel tank. The gas dumped out right on top of his batteries and engine. The Harbor Patrol found out about the spill when they were doing random slip checks." Mopping up after mistaking your fishing pole holder for the fuel tank outlet was not such a fairy tale ending for this angler...

Any fisherman will tell you that the good days usually make up for the bad, and Greg Huggins, a fishery technician who works on Monterey Bay, saw both one Labor Day weekend. "This weekend was a doozy in Santa Cruz with a solid rockfish bite," said Huggins. "There was a good assortment of species and limits. I weighed in several 30+ lb halibut and a good number of smaller ones. Anglers that made the trip to Franklin Point were all rewarded with very nice sized lingcod limits; however, albacore anglers were all virtually skunked. This made them understandably irritable after a long, unfruitful day."

In the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara, fishermen were also having a good time with halibut. Fishery technician Erika Hersh noted that "People were bringing in halibut throughout August. Most of the halibut were too heavy for my 25-lb scale." Fish too large for your scale. that's a problem any fisherman would like to have!

Observing fishing trends, boom-and-bust cycles of ocean abundance, and shifts in recreational catches is great training for a career as a DFG biologist. Then-CRFS fishery technician Kai Lampson marveled over the abundant catch he witnessed in 2006 during one sampling trip: "I personally had never seen halibut catches of this magnitude. Many of the fish were quite large. I weighed two fish over 40 lb apiece, and observed a commercial rod-and-reel fish that weighed over 52 lb. The bulk of the halibut catches were made at Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands, where the halibut were feeding on squid that were spawning there."

Fishery technicians see it all: good, bad and indifferent fishing, spawning squid, encounters with exotic species - even fairy tale endings. "I took this job because I love fish, plain and simple," asserts Kirk Lombard, a fishery technician working out of San Francisco. "But what keeps me going are the stories, the interactions and the remarkable characters I meet in the world of piers and docks and jetties."

For more information about the CRFS program, be sure to visit the CRFS Web page.

Back to Top


Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz!

by Mary Patyten, Research Writer

Welcome to the Marine Management News Fish Identification Quiz for January 2010! Here's your chance to show off your fish identification knowledge and win an official Department of Fish and Game (DFG) fish tagging cap. To qualify for the drawing, simply send the correct answer via e-mail to before February 28, 2010 correctly identifying:

  • The species of the fish pictured below (scientific name and an accepted common name)
  • The current daily bag limit, as given in the 2009-2010 recreational fishing regulations for California!

Be sure to type "January 2010 MMN Fish Quiz" as the "Subject" of your e-mail. The winner will be selected during a random drawing from all correct answers received by February 28, 2010.

January 2010 Fish Quiz

This fish hatches from an egg about the size of a BB pellet along with hundreds of its siblings after an incubation period of around two weeks. Females may spawn several times from October through April, using long, sticky filaments to attach large egg masses to eelgrass and shallow-water algae. Once hatched, the young swim near the surface in harbors, along sandy beaches, and in the kelp canopy, often mixing with young topsmelt.

The range of this species stretches from Santa Maria Bay, Baja California, to Yaquina, Oregon. Off California, they are found in bays and inshore waters throughout the year. They often form large, dense schools in water less than 100 ft deep, and are most common in 5- to 50-ft depths.

This fish may attain a maximum length of 22 in., with 17-in. fish commonly taken. It grows relatively fast, reaching maturity at two to three years when about 8 in. long. One 16-in. male was aged to 11 years, the oldest fish ever aged for this species.

This fish is targeted by commercial and recreational fisheries for human consumption and for bait. Historically, commercial fishermen have used a variety of nets and setlines to catch this fish. Commercial landing totals have varied sharply, driven by demand: in 1945 more than two million pounds were taken, while in 1999 only 2,530 pounds were taken. Principal commercial fishing areas include bays and harbors such as San Pedro, Monterey, San Francisco, Tomales, and Humboldt.

This species is frequently taken by recreational anglers fishing in the surf and from piers and skiffs. It was the fourth most commonly occurring fish in the California recreational catch during 2007 according to California Recreational Fisheries Survey data. Bright red artificial flies or small hooks baited with shrimp or squid are effective terminal tackle for this species. Larger fish are quite game, and will take a small spinner or lure cast out and retrieved with a series of quick jerks.

Currently, this species' population status is not known. Because this fish occurs in inshore waters, however, it runs the risk of being affected by pollutants and loss of habitat through development.

If you think you know this species of fish, enter the prize drawing by sending an e-mail to the DFG at with the correct scientific and a common name, and the current daily bag limit. Again, be sure to type "January 2010 MMN Fish Quiz" in the "Subject" portion of your e-mail. Answers to the quiz and the winner's name will be published in the next issue of Marine Management News.

Back to Top


October 2009 "Mystery" Fish: Finescale triggerfish

by Mary Patyten, Research Writer

Congratulations go out to Mike Peterson of Burlingame, California for correctly identifying last issue's mystery fish as a finescale triggerfish, Balistes polylepsis. The daily bag limit for finescale triggerfish is 10 fish, within the general bag limit of 20 fish total (Section 27.60(a)). This bag limit is applicable to all species of fish and for which take is allowed, but no other bag limit is specified.

Mike is a lifelong San Francisco Bay Area resident who works in the biotech industry. He is a scuba diver and occasional fisherman and hunter who says that the "primary appeal of my outdoor pastimes is learning and enjoyment of the natural history of the life and land." Congratulations Mike!

Back to Top


Fishing the Bay for California Halibut

by Adrienne Vincent, Marine Biologist

California Halibut
Quick Facts and Fishing Tips

  • Minimum legal size: 22 in. total length
  • Bag and possession limit: 3 fish north of Pt. Sur, 5 fish south of Pt. Sur (Monterey County)
  • If a sub-legal sized halibut must be handled, use a small-meshed (knotless) net to bring undersized fish close enough to dislodge the hook and ensure safe release.
  • Try to keep undersized fish in the water to prevent tail splitting.
  • The Bay-Delta Sport Fishing Enhancement stamp is no longer required on recreational fishing licenses.
  • A current recreational fishing license is required to be in your possession unless fishing from a public pier or under the age of 16, or fishing on a free fishing day.
  • A current commercial fishing license is required for take with intent to sell of any fish; and the boat, if used, must be currently registered as a commercial fishing vessel.

San Francisco Bay hosts a modern, industrialized, international port complex serving more than seven million people in the Bay Area. It is also part of the largest and most dynamic estuary in the state, and supports many ecological communities and native species.

In some years the bay is also a focus of sport and commercial fisheries for California halibut, which the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) monitors through the State Finfish Management Project.

California halibut are one of the largest resident predatory fish species found in San Francisco Bay, with a maximum recorded length of five feet in California waters. They are visual predators that feed on small bait fishes. Many California halibut use protected bays and estuaries such as San Francisco Bay for foraging, spawning, and as a nursery.

With multiple launch ramps and piers providing recreational fishing access to the bay, and no special permits required for commercial fishermen, the California halibut hook-and-line fisheries are both popular and accessible.

Fishing Regulations and Methods

Specific regulations apply when fishing in San Francisco Bay. Recreational anglers are limited to one fishing line with no more than three separate hooks or lures unless fishing from a public pier where two lines are allowed. When fishing from a boat, recreational fishing is restricted to daylight hours only (one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset). Commercial fishermen are limited to no more than four troll or hand lines with two hooks each unless there is more than one commercial fisherman on-board, in which case no more than six lines with two hooks each may be used.

Most anglers report fishing success when drifting with live bait, though trolling with bait is also popular. Tidal fluxes affect bay conditions, with flooding tides bringing baitfish to the far edges of San Pablo Bay and South Bay, and ebbing tides bunching bait schools into deeper water around Alcatraz and Angel islands. Predators like halibut and striped bass follow these tidal rhythms. Unlike striped bass, halibut bite best when the tidal flux is low and turbidity is minimal. Along with halibut and striped bass, anglers report hooking up with white seabass, bat rays, and gray smoothhound, brown smoothhound, and leopard sharks in the bay.

California halibut fishing is open year-round, but the "bite" in the bay is thought to start in earnest in March after the freshwater flush from the Delta subsides. The bite continues through summer into fall when adults congregate on the shallow flats near the Golden Gate Bridge, Central Bay, lower San Pablo Bay, and South Bay before spawning and moving into deeper water for the winter.

For more information about the California halibut fisheries in San Francisco Bay, visit the DFG's State Finfish Management Project website or contact DFG Marine Biologist Adrienne Vincent at (650) 631-2534 or

Additional Information

Back to Top


Ocean Sport Fishing Regulation Changes for 2010

by DFG Staff

Bay-Delta Sport Fishing Enhancement Stamp Repealed (effective January 1, 2010)
Beginning January 1, anglers are no longer required to have a Bay-Delta Sport Fishing Enhancement Stamp affixed to their Sport Fishing License to fish in Bay-Delta waters.

"Wear Your License" Regulation Repealed (effective March 1, 2010)
The Fish and Game Commission adopted regulations ending the requirement that anglers display their sport fishing license above the waist while fishing. Before March 1, 2010, however, anglers must still display their license above the waist.

Spiny Lobster Regulation Amended (effective March 1, 2010)
On December 10, 2009 the Fish and Game Commission adopted new regulatory language that requires spiny lobster to be kept in a whole, measurable condition until being prepared for consumption. See Section 29.90(e).

Also of Interest:

Purchase Sport Fishing Licenses Online
You can now purchase a California sport fishing license and stamps online. For more information, visit the DFG's license sales website.

Help to Support Our Wardens
The 2010 California DFG Warden Stamp can now be purchased for $5 at DFG regional and license offices, or by mailing in an order form. All proceeds will be deposited into a special account and used to provide important tools for California's 385 DFG wardens, including communications and surveillance devices, protective equipment, training, and the K-9 program. Wardens work hard to educate those they encounter in the outdoors, as well as school children in the classroom, about the importance of resource conservation, pollution prevention, and a healthy natural environment. For more information and an order form, visit the DFG website.

Back to Top


Get Hooked on the Marine Region and MLPA Initiative websites!

by Aaron Del Monte, Associate Information Systems Analyst and Marine Region Webmaster

For the latest information on fishing regulations, marine resources, and news affecting our California coastline, your first stop should be the Department of Fish and Game Marine Region website. This comprehensive information source currently contains well over 2,000 Web pages readily available to the public. If you are new to this website, we invite you to explore the valuable resources we have created. For those who have already visited the site, be sure to check back regularly, since new features, updates, and news releases are added every week. Here are some recent, noteworthy updates:

Marine Region Projects: When visiting our site, one of your very first questions might be: "What exactly does the Marine Region do?" This page will answer these questions. In addition to an overview of the Marine Region, you will find a description of 14 current projects. Expanded content has recently been added for these projects:

Summary of Recreational Groundfish Fishing Regulations for 2010: If you plan to fish for groundfish anytime this year, be sure to visit this page. Easy-to-read tables identify not just the length of the season, but also depth limits, daily bag limits, and minimum size limits for several key species. Printer-friendly versions of the tables are available so you can bring this information with you on your next fishing trip.

Here are some of our most popular pages:

California Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations Map: Going ocean fishing? This should be your first stop. Simply click the ocean location where you plan to fish and you will access a compact list of sport fishing regulations for that area. The pages are printer-friendly, so you can print the regulations and take them with you on your next fishing trip. These pages are updated frequently, so you can be assured that they contain the most up-to-date information.

Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations: This page will feature the Ocean Sport Fishing regulations booklet scheduled for distribution in March, 2010. The bookmarked PDF file features bolded, italicized bookmark headings which denote sections that have changed or are new. In addition to the booklet, you will find links to in-season regulation changes, helpful illustrations and more.

Fishing Page: One of our most popular pages of all, this page contains links to the two resources listed above, as well as information on specific species, laws and regulations, permits and licenses, record fish and invertebrate trophies, fish identification guides, and a number of annual reports and sets of data. Whether you are a recreational or commercial fisherman, you're sure to find some useful information on this page.

Fish Identification Page: Do you need to identify a fish or shellfish? This page contains a useful collection of photos, brochures and other resources to help you correctly identify your catch.

Thank you for using the Marine Region website as a resource for news, information and regulations. We hope you will visit our site again soon!

The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative website

This partnership between government agencies and private entities is striving to achieve the original Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) goals. The 1999 MLPA directed the state to design and manage a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in order to, among other things, protect marine life and habitats, marine ecosystems, and marine natural heritage, as well as improve recreational, educational and study opportunities provided by marine ecosystems. This website contains up-to-date information about this challenging endeavor, including up-to-date meeting information, public comments and documents for review. Current popular resources on the site include:

North Coast Region: The planning process for the North Coast Region (California/Oregon border to Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County) is currently underway. Public meetings and workshops in this region give Californians opportunities to learn about and get involved in the planning process.

South Coast Region: The planning process for the South Coast Region (Point Conception to the California-Mexico border) has been completed. An MPA proposal was unanimously adopted on November 10, 2009 by the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force, known as the MLPA South Coast Integrated Preferred Alternative MPA Proposal. This proposal was presented to the California Fish and Game Commission on December 9, 2009. The regulatory process is now underway.

North Central Coast Region: On August 5, 2009, the Fish and Game Commission voted to adopt its preferred alternative proposal for the MLPA North Central Coast Study Region (Alder Creek near Point Arena in Mendocino County, to Pigeon Point in San Mateo County). This act established 21 marine protected areas, three state marine recreational management areas, and six special closures covering approximately 153 square miles of state ocean waters. These adopted MPAs are expected to take effect on May 1, 2010.

Central Coast Marine Protected Areas (MPAs): California's Central California's Central Coast MPAs took effect September 21, 2007. From Pigeon Point (San Mateo County) south to Point Conception (Santa Barbara County), the 29 MPAs represent approximately 204 square miles of state waters. This page contains descriptions and maps of all 29 MPAs, and includes links to a printer-friendly guide and brochure.

Back to Top


Creature Feature: Barred Sand Bass

by DFG Staff

Barred sand bass may be found from Santa Cruz southward off California to a depth of 600 ft.; however, most fish are taken in 60 to 90 ft. of water. They are usually found near the sand/rock interfaces of deeper reefs and artificial submerged structures.

Distinguishing Characteristics

Barred Sand Bass
  • Dark gray to greenish; gray-white on back, white on belly, dark vertical bars on sides; no spots.
  • Body elongate, mouth large; lower jaw protrudes slightly.
  • Third spine in dorsal fin is much longer than first two, and is the longest of the dorsal spines.

Life History and Other Notes

The barred sand bass diet includes crabs, octopus, squid, and small fishes. Adult barred sand bass gather to spawn during the warm summer months. Their eggs are free-floating, and striped young appear in southern California nearshore areas and eelgrass beds during fall and winter.

Most barred sand bass landed in California are taken between May and October. They are fished in three main areas: Horseshoe Kelp to Newport Beach, Dana Point to Oceanside, and the Silver Strand off San Diego.

Barred sand bass are reserved only for sport fishermen (no commercial fishery exists). The best method for catching this fish is to search a sandy area with a fishfinder until a school is located. Anchor the boat and offer live anchovy for bait. If you chum with anchovy, barred sand bass will usually gather under the boat; thus it pays to wait awhile before moving to a different spot.

Barred Sand Bass Quick Facts

Scientific name: Paralabrax nebulifer

Other common names: sand bass, ground bass, sandy

Range & habitat: Santa Cruz southward off rocky reefs and artificial structure

Length & weight: To 26 in. and ~11 lb.

Life span: To 24 years

Diet and Suggested Bait/Lures: Feeds on crabs, squid, octopus, and small fishes. Try using live anchovies for bait and artificial lures

This Creature Feature is an excerpt from the California Finfish and Shellfish Identification Book, available for free from the DFG Publications Office (contact (916) 322-8978 or The book was created as part of the California Fishing Passport Program, which showcases different species of fish available to California anglers. The California Fishing Passport, a fishing journal, is the basis of the program and is also free to all anglers. For more information, visit:

Back to Top


Upcoming Commission and Council Meetings

2010 Fish and Game Commission

February 3-4
March 3-4
April 7-8
May 5-6
June 23-24
August 4-5
Greater Sacramento Area
Santa Barbara

2010 Pacific Fishery Management Council Meetings

March 6-12
April 10-15
June 12-17
September 11-16
November 4-9
Sacramento CA
Portland OR
Foster City CA
Boise ID
Costa Mesa, CA

For the latest information on upcoming fishery-related meetings, please go to our Calendar of Events or contact the Monterey DFG office at (831) 649-2870.


Would you like e-mail notification of new issues of Marine Management News?
Sign up here